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GM Foods and In-Vitro Meat: A Summary December 4, 2009

Posted by Zaynah Abid in GM Food, In Vitro Meat.
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Genetically Modified foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms, whose DNA have been altered in order to tailor specific effects—the most common desired effects include resistance to herbicide, weeds, pests, and the ability to withstand extreme climate conditions. More recent research, which focuses less on agricultural benefits and more on consumer-related benefits, involves increasing the nutritional content of foods, including vitamins, antioxidants like resveratrol, healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids, and other substances that might prevent chronic diseases. Research is also underway concerning the creation of an allergen-free peanut. These genetic modifications are typically achieved through the introduction of foreign genes into a plant cell, but researchers at University of Minnesota and Massachusetts General Hospital have recently presented a genetic modification technique that introduces small changes to a plant’s DNA (using zinc finger nucleases) without the introduction of a foreign gene.

At the moment, GM foods are considered to be at the forefront of the fight to secure global food security, by promising significantly higher crop yields and nutritional enhancements. The U.S. government and private foundations like the Gates Foundation have therefore encouraged research in this field to eradicate food shortages and hunger around the globe. The use of GM food is widespread in the United States but its use is strictly regulated in Europe and is viewed with a lot of suspicion and distrust in developing countries. Environmental groups like Greenpeace, along with some circles in the scientific community, have put up stiff resistance against the use of genetically modified foods. It is interesting to note, however, that GM foods fill the shelves of supermarkets, often without the knowledge of the consumer, since the FDA requires no special labeling on foods grown from biotech seed.

One of the main concerns regarding GM foods is the monopoly of the biotech firms over the production of genetically modified products. Moreover, intellectual property rights of the seed companies have prevented independent research and comparison of GM seeds, with these giant companies controlling the information released to the public. The seeds cannot be tested by independent researchers to verify the claims of the biotech companies and to establish the safety of the seeds, which raises questions about the motives of these firms. According to some studies, crops like Golden Rice, which is marketed to contain enhanced nutritional content, does not provide a sufficient amount of nutrition when normal-sized servings are consumed on a daily basis. Greenpeace and other activists also assert that GM foods can potentially be harmful to human health, and detrimental DNA can show up in other areas of the food chain. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use of GM foods and many unanswered questions, which are masking the benefits that can be achieved from its use.

In-vitro meat, another type of biotech food, is meat derived from animal tissue, which is grown on a synthetic scaffold and harvested in a lab. There are numerous benefits to such meat, which range from its antibiotic and steroid-free properties to its enhanced nutrition, its avoidance of animal cruelty and its environmental benefits, including fewer greenhouse gas emissions. While in-vitro meat is still in the basic research stages of development, there are hopes for its commercial production and manufacture in the next 5-10 years.

Our blog has focused on a variety of aspects of genetically modified foods and in-vitro meat, including some of the topics and controversies described above. In addition to presenting our own perspective on the issues, we wanted to obtain some additional opinions from the Brown community – from students to professors – in order to get a sense of how much information people had about either topic, as well as how open they would be to purchasing and consuming either in-vitro meat or genetically modified foods.


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The Technical Challenges of Cultured Meat November 23, 2009

Posted by egastfriend in GM Food.
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In a fascinating study, Doris Taylor and her team of researchers at the University of Minnesota re-created an artificial rat heart using stem cells.  They took a heart from a dead rat, flushed out all the cells using a detergent, and then injected stem cells and progenitor cells from the hearts of newborn rats into the empty heart.  The stem cells and progenitor cells, fed with a nutritious liquid akin to artificial blood, repopulated the “empty” heart, which held the original shape of the adult rat heart, but was composed only of Extracellular Matrix (ECM), i.e., the collagen, elastin, and other materials that hold our body parts together.  Amazingly, the heart was even able to beat, albeit at only 2% strength of a normal heart.  Before this technology can be applied to creating artificial organs for humans, they will need to improve it so that it can beat at 100% normal strength.

But wait – for in-vitro meat, 2% strength is fine.  Dr. Beth Zielinski, professor of Biology at Brown University points out, “this may sound gross, but in-vitro meat could be more tender than conventional meat.  If the muscle is only contracting at 2% strength, it won’t get as tough as meat grown in an animal that’s constantly exercising its muscles.”

I then asked Jason Matheny, co-founder of New Harvest, about the feasibility of this idea.
Me: “If you could structurally analyze an animal muscle, you could use bioprinting to recreate the 3-D extracellular matrix using synthetic collagen or synthetic elastin as a scaffold, and then grow cell cultures on it that would look just like the original muscle, say, a filet mignon.”
JM: “Synthetic collagen is being used as a scaffold in tissue engineering and for cultured meat, but the problem is that without blood vessels, the culture can be only a few millimeters thick, because there needs to be a way to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the cells below the surface.  One way we’ve been trying to do this is by bioprinting in layers where you can create these vessels.  The problem is that the resolution is not high enough that you would be able to do this at the millimeter scale, because the substance is very gooey.  If you could produce these forms extremely precisely–down to the millimeter level–and then produce the proper cell types, you’re going to have to have the growth factors embedded in there, too, which can signal the cells to become vascular tissue. Growth factors have successfully been embedded into scaffolding, because that’s what’s being sought for replacement organs.  Eventually, the cultured meat industry could cannibalize the technology used for growing whole organs in vitro.  Another possibility would be vascularizing the tissue from growth factors alone, instead of using the scaffolding to do it.”

So, the problem, in short, is that scientists can “print” the 3-D structure of an animal muscle using synthetic ECM, but the substance is so gooey that it cannot form the microvasculature (capillaries) needed to deliver nutrients to the cells.

A difficult, but fascinating challenge indeed.

The truth we are getting November 23, 2009

Posted by asadhassan in GM Food.
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In order to establish the safety of GM foods and remove the concerns of environmentalists and the scientific community, it is imperative that the GM foods are independently tested. These tests would include the safety of the GM foods and how effective they are in living up to the claims. This will be the first step towards bringing more information to the people and removing a lot of misconceptions.

The problem however in this idea is that the big pharma companies have restrictions on the use of their GM products for independent research and analysis. Scientists and researchers therefore cannot analyze these products without facing legal action. This article describes this practice and calls for a removal of these restriction. The agritech companies claim that this is to protect their intellectual property rights and to ensure that they can secure profits, which they can use for research and development later on. This is also purportedly to make sure that he seeds are not replicated. Large biotech firms like Monsanto and Syngenta go further to ban independent analysis to test the claims of these companies and compare them with similar products created by other companies. Moreover, these seeds cannot be tested for adversely harming the environment and more importantly humans.

I personally agree with the demands of the article, that these restrictions should be removed immediately. This is not going to help the industry in anyway, but is likely to add to the growing concerns regarding the GM foods. If we think of it, all the information that we have about the safety of the GM foods, all the information about the benefits have been subjected to regulation by the very firms that produce these products. All the studies made public have undergone approval from the biotech companies. Thus in effect, there is no objective analysis of these goods because of the restrictions in place.

Removing these restrictions on the other hand will allow a free, fair and transparent analysis of the issue, helping to answer all the questions that loom in the minds of the common man. Such studies will help point out problems in the products and the firms will thus have an incentive to improve their GM products and address the safety and health concerns. As far as the intellectual property rights are concerned, it is really important that they are protected, but they should not be made an excuse to compromise the safety of the population. EPA and FDA need to therefore regulate this sector.

Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research, Scientific American Editorial, 21 July 2009, http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/11311-scientific-american-condemns-restrictions-on-gm-research

The harms of GM Food – Myth or Reality? November 23, 2009

Posted by asadhassan in GM Food.
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We have discussed the various benefits of GM crops in this blog at a number of occasions. Environmentalists and many other studies have put up stiff resistance against GM food. These controversies remain unaddressed and are a serious cause of concern regarding the broader use of GM crops. While in the US, the use of GM soya and corn is commonplace and most of the food products on an average American supermarket shelf contain some sort of materials derived from GM foods, their use is strictly regulated in Europe. They are viewed with a lot of suspicion and distrust in developing markets like India.

This article that appeared in an online Indian news site describes the vehement opposition to the introduction of genetically modified eggplants to produce pesticidal toxins. These vegetables are going to be the first genetically modified food crops in India. Earlier, GM cotton was introduced but did not face such a lot of resistance primarily because it was not entering the food chain. Although the manufacturer of the GM eggplants, an Indian company in collaboration with Monsanto, claim that the testing of the seeds in the lab have yielded no evidence of harms. The article claims that the concerns against GM food are based on strong scientific evidence. There is no mention of the harms of GM eggplants specifically, but it describes in a fair amount of detail the harms of other GM foods on lab animals.

The harms presented are quite concerning. How can products that have such harmful effects in the lab, be allowed to enter the food chain, and nothing is done about it. Following this article, I looked up for research that has been done regarding the risks of genetically modified foods and came across the work of Jeffery M. Smith, who wrote the critically acclaimed book, Seeds of Deception, in which he talks about the unregulated manner in which GM foods are entering our food chain. The FDA does not regulate the use of these GM foods even though there have been known side effects in lab animals. Lab rats were shown to have a variety of harmful side effects ranging from allergic reactions, organ damage to sterility and decreased life spans of these rats. This interview of Jeff Smith neatly summarizes his concerns regarding GM foods. Thought he interviewer does seem to dramatize facts quite a bit, the responses in general are eye opening.

Then the question once again arises, about whom to believe or to trust regarding GM food, the corporations and the government or environmentalists and other independent scientific studies. GM foods have been portrayed in general as the solution to the looming food crisis and is the main candidate for the new ‘Green Revolution’ but considering unaddressed concerns like the ones presented in the article, one does wonder if GM foods are a plausible solution.  No rational debate on this topic has happened, and as the lab trials are shrouded in mystery, the situation is not likely to get better. GM foods will continue to face such opposition and continue to be a bone of contention. I personally believe that the FDA should get more involved into the regulation of the GM foods. It should look into the results of the lab trials and carefully scrutinize them for any harmful results. This is imperative to get to the more transparent analysis of GM foods. But I am sure that this will not be an easy affair, given the heavy influence of American corporations in the corridors of power.

Bidwai, Praful, “Bt Bringal, A step towards disaster”, Rediff Business, 26 October 2009, http://business.rediff.com/column/2009/oct/26/bt-brinjal-a-step-towards-disaster.htm

Seeds of Deception, http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/Home/index.cfm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7rXIujvXGc

Animal Activists: In Vitro Meat a Possibility in the Future? November 23, 2009

Posted by cline6 in In Vitro Meat.
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In the last year, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) started a competition offering 1 million dollars to the most authentic piece of chicken grown in vitro that scientists could offer. Since the start of the competition, scientists and ethicists alike have been in uproar regarding the production of such meat (see this article in the New York Times.) However, no group is more surprisingly divided than animal rights activists. Shortly after the announcement that PETA would start such a project, one PETA member stated that there was “a near civil war in our office” and that “we will have members leave us over this.”

One main reason for the divide is based on PETA’s founding principle, which says that animals are not ours to eat. In fact, some PETA members who do not support In Vitro Meat technology say that they would be more comfortable eating roadkill since the animals have already been killed, and not for the purpose of consumption.

On the other hand, other PETA members are quite supportive of PETA’s new competition, since there will be a significantly smaller number of animals suffering if the competition succeeds in highlighting the new technology as efficiently as they hope it will.

Clearly, animal activists are divided over the competition. What’s most surprising, however, is scientists take on the competition. Although many support In Vitro meat technology, lead researchers at Johns Hopkins University think that it will be nearly impossible for anyone to receive enough funding to complete the said task in such a short amount of time. So even without the support of PETA as a whole, it seems unlikely that such a project could even be feasibly completed.

Is it necessary to argue varying viewpoints in a competition that likely won’t succeed by 2012? I still say it is of the utmost importance. Without a doubt, major developments will be made in In Vitro Meat technology over the next 3 years (see this Time Magazine article!), even if the competition is not completed. That makes it critically important to understand why animal activists are still fighting such technology, since having the support of key groups like PETA is key in convincing the masses that In Vitro meat is a viable option to improve nutrition and taste, as well as helping to prevent animal cruelty.

So do animal activists have reason to be split over the million-dollar mince meat? And should PETA continue to support its competition? Comments are welcome.

Schwartz, John. PETA’s Latest Tactic: 1 Million for Fake Meat. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/us/21meat.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin

Siegelbaum, BJ. In Search of a Test Tube Hamburger. TIME Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1734630,00.html

The Marketing of Cultured Meat November 23, 2009

Posted by egastfriend in In Vitro Meat.
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One thing that worries me about the prospects of cultured or in-vitro meat is its potential to attract bad press and be labeled as a “Frankenfood.”  This blog has tracked some of the damaging press that GM food has attracted and the same thing could potentially happen to lab-grown meat as well.  These issues are important with the marketing of any product, but especially with food, because of their importance to our lifestyle, culture, and habits.

My first problem with in-vitro meat is the name.  “In-vitro meat” sounds more like a science project than a food, and “cultured meat” is not much better.  Why not call it “clean meat,” I wondered?  So I asked someone who should know: Jason Matheny, co-founder of New Harvest, a non-profit that promotes research on in-vitro meat.

Me: “‘In-vitro meat’ sounds like a terrible name.  Why don’t you call it ‘clean meat’?”
JM: “Actually, there is a guy who used to work for us who suggested the name ‘clean meat,’ and there was someone else who suggested the name ‘pure meat.’  These names are certainly better from a marketing perspective, but the scientists who do the research on cultured meat didn’t feel comfortable with it.  Their objection to it was that it sounded like a marketing term.  They didn’t like the idea that, as scientists, they would be marketing a term.  They felt that ‘cultured meat’ or ‘hydroponic meat’ was more scientifically accurate.”

I can understand the sentiment of the scientists, but at the same time I think it’s unfortunate that they are passing up an opportunity to market this product at the pre-commercial stage.  As soon as a VC-backed firm takes this on, however, you can bet that they’ll pick a better name for it.

Me: “I don’t mean to be too critical, but how did the Colbert Report get to interview one of the scientists at New Harvest for their story on Shmeat?  The clip is hilarious, but I think it’s very bad publicity for cultured meat.”
JM: “They actually contacted me about this story, and I felt that it was not a good idea to accept the interview, so I declined, and I sent out an email to my colleagues who work with in-vitro meat saying, ‘you may have received an email from the Colbert Report, here are my reasons why I chose not to participate,’ but of course the were free to make their own decisions and I guess they felt differently.”

Me: “In the story, they show a picture of in-vitro meat that looks more like an egg yolk.  I know I’m not supposed to ask you if you’ve tasted it, but have they made cultured meat that looks palatable yet?”

JM: (Laughs) “That was an early prototype, very primitive, and the cells were actually fibroblasts, not muscle tissue.  The muscle tissue that has been grown in the lab is the same as muscle tissue in live animals, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be as palatable as regular chicken nuggets.  Chicken nuggets are actually made out of something called meat slurry, which is basically muscle tissue that is sucked off the bodies of dead birds after the good meat has been taken and is then ground up into a mush that can be molded into different shapes.  The bar isn’t set very high.”

So I have a question for you, the reader: How do you think cultured meat should be marketed?  What name do you think is most appetizing?  Comments are welcome.

A New Technique to Quell the GM Controversy November 20, 2009

Posted by Zaynah Abid in GM Food.
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Many of the controversies surrounding genetically modified foods involve uncertainty regarding their environmental and health consequences. These concerns are not totally unfounded, when one considers the current method of modification.  Typically, foreign genes are introduced into an organism blindly, without knowledge of where the genes will be incorporated in the genome. We may immediately see the desired result—resistance to rotting in the 1994 Flavr Savr tomato, for example—but we may be ignorant of more subtle, changes in the organism’s DNA, which might induce unwelcome health and environmental consequences. For all we know, we may have genetically modified that innocent-looking rice crop to slowly grow into a rice monster that takes over the world!  All joking aside, it is possible that meddling with an organism’s genetic code could lead to improperly developed seeds, a change in taste, or a vulnerability to fungal infections. Health consequences in humans have not been thoroughly examined, but the possibility has given way to fear.

This article presents a new technique for DNA modifications, and one which reduces the possibility of these unwanted side effects. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Massachusetts General Hospital made slight changes to a tobacco plant’s DNA in order to make it herbicide-resistant, without introducing any foreign genes. They did so using zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), which are enzymes which bind to certain DNA sequences, introducing modifications at or near the binding site. Using this technique, single genes were altered in tobacco plants, which later proved resistant to herbicide exposure. The researchers’ next step is to apply this technique to the world’s most important food crop: rice.

It seems to me that this type of modification has enormous potential, both in improving the health safety of GM foods, and in reversing the public’s negative opinion toward the idea and the consumption of genetically modified foods. If we are not randomly introducing foreign genes into an organism, but we instead have a systematic method of injection and thus a conscious awareness of all potential effects of the DNA modification, the public’s fears may fall to the wayside. Now, there may always be those who resist the notion of genetic modification in any form, even if health and environmental consequences were non-existent—perhaps those viewing the alterations to be at odds with religious beliefs, or others, fearing the unknown, who remain fiercely fixated on the idea of foods au naturale. We see the manifestation of these fears in the Non-GMO project, which has been recently introduced in organic markets like Whole Foods. Under this project, the industry group labels a food product as a non-genetically-modified organism, if its biotech content falls below a certain threshold. When 85 percent of corn and canola and 91 percent of soybean crops, derivatives of which pervade almost all food products (to some extent), were sown with biotech seed in 2009, I wonder how  thorough the Non-GMO project verification process can truly be, and how much success the project will ultimately achieve.

The other issue that arises is this: with such minor changes in the organism’s DNA using ZFN’s, will the palpable changes in the crop be minor as well? The researchers were able to make a tobacco plant resistant to herbicide, but can they, say, increase the nutritional content and cancer-fighting molecules of a tomato (see my last post), using the same technique? Can they make peanuts allergen-free? Maybe it’s possible, but I wonder if the introduction of foreign genes is what induces the greatest and most significant changes, while small modifications using ZFN’s can only produce smaller farmer-friendly changes, like pest and herbicide resistance. Hopefully these questions can be resolved as this new technique of modification is applied across a wider variety of organisms, producing a larger range of effects.

University of Minnesota.  “New Technique For Modifying Plant Genes Developed.” ScienceDaily 4 May 2009. <http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/04/090429132233.htm>.

Neuman, William. “’Non-GMO’ Seal Identifies Foods Mostly Biotech Free.” The New York Times. 28 Aug. 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/business/29gmo.html

An Added Benefit to In Vitro Meat: Less Antibiotic Exposure for the Masses November 16, 2009

Posted by cline6 in In Vitro Meat.
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In recent years, a lot of documentation has been released about the amount of antibiotics farm animals destined for consumption are injected with. In a “traditional” farm (that being the slightly idealistic farm of the raise-only-what-you-eat variety,) animals rarely if ever are treated with antibiotics and growth hormones, except in cases of severe illness. However, in farms that mass-produce animals for human consumption across the United States, animals are often pumped with antibiotics in an attempt to both keep them healthy and to help them produce a greater muscle mass, therefore producing more meat.

To produce animals in such a manner takes a toll on human health. This article (from Food Production Daily) outlines not only the gross lack of knowledge that the American people have about antibiotic-infused meat, but it also discusses quite clearly the problems of injecting animals with antibiotics. Antibiotics that still work to fight human infections are a valuable resource today, as the basic mechanism of infection-causing bacteria’s causes them to mutate, making infections difficult to treat with the same antibiotic multiple times. When you combine the two problems, it becomes clear that by injecting animals with doses of antibiotics, we are, as a society, essentially making ourselves less able to be treated by antibiotics should any of us contract an infection. In addition to this, today nearly 70% of all antibiotics produced in the United States are for use in farm animals. Evidently, this is no small problem.

However, there is a solution to preventing both problems (those being primarily the toll consistently consuming low doses of antibiotics takes on general human health, as well as the toll it takes on animals who are treated with them): In Vitro meat technology. As I mentioned in an earlier post, In Vitro meat has several positive features, one of which is ending animal suffering. After reading the above article about antibiotics in meat (as well as this article about antibiotics during the Chinese Olympics last year,) it seems clear to me that In Vitro meat would have solid support as a healthy alternative.

Without “live” animals producing meat, there would, quite simply be no need to either use or produce such large quantities of antibiotics, which would consequently help Americans to save the few remaining antibiotics we have left to fight infections (with relative efficiency) to do just that, rather than blindly injecting thousands of farm animals. The concept of In Vitro meat in this situation clearly provides a positive alternative to a flawed practice.

Beck, Lindsay. “China is taking no chances on food safety for the Olympics.” NyTimes. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/business/worldbusiness/09iht-safety.1.9095944.html

“US Survey Reveals Most Americans Unaware of Antibiotics in Meat.” Food Production Daily. 13 Nov. 2009. http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Supply-Chain/US-survey-reveals-most-Americans-unaware-of-antibiotics-in-meat

In-Vitro Meat – Pros and Cons November 16, 2009

Posted by egastfriend in In Vitro Meat.
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Over the summer, an article called Why In-Vitro Meat is Good for You appeared in Seed Magazine.  In the article, Seed Magazine interviews Jason Matheny, who is the co-founder and director of the non-profit organization New Harvest, which promotes in-vitro meat.  Matheny does an excellent job of pointing out the advantages of in-vitro meat over conventionally (read: factory farm) grown meat.

Here is a breakdown of how I see the pros and cons of in-vitro meat.  I’ll start with the cons:

Cons

  • Very expensive to produce with current technology
  • Requires enormous capital investment for Research & Development
  • Unnatural
  • People might be reluctant to switch over from normal meat
  • Limited (for the near future) to ground meat (it’s more difficult to produce a steak or drumstick)
  • Subject to media criticism (see Stephen Colbert’s report on Shmeat, “Combination Shit and Meat”: Says Stephen of prototype in-vitro meat, “That looks like an egg yolk made of blood.”)
  • Possible unknown health consequences? (Will need to be carefully tested in FDA clinical trials.)

Pros

  • Potentially cheaper to produce than regular meat (with technological advances)
  • Requires less food input (instead of growing a whole animal with bones & brains, you only need enough calories & nutrients to grow the muscle)
  • Requires less real estate (why not grow meat in skyscrapers in the city?)
  • Requires less water (you can use microalgae to supply nutrients to the cells instead of using water to grow corn)
  • Produces less waste (no solid waste and no methane gas produced from consumption of corn or grass)
  • Cleaner (a lab can be kept sterile; a farm cannot)
  • More ethical in terms of animal welfare (no suffering involved)
  • Healthier (scientists can have full control over fat content and nutritional content)
  • Prevents climate change/global warming (a recent study found that livestock accounts for 51% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions!  Much of this is from animal waste and, strangely enough, methane cow burps.)
  • Better for public health (swine flu and avian flu originate from keeping animals as livestock; the less we do this, the fewer outbreaks we can expect.  Feeding antibiotics to livestock is also feared to cause the emergence of new antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.)

To me, it’s very clear that the pros outweigh the cons.  Yes, in-vitro meat is unnatural, but so is factory farming.  Cheese (made by combining milk with the enzyme rennet taken from the stomach of a calf) and yogurt (made by combining milk with a bacteria culture) are also unnatural foods made by biotechnology, albeit ancient biotechnology.  At any rate, it would seem unreasonable for anyone to claim that in-vitro meat is any more unnatural than a Twinkie (unless there is a still unknown tribe of hunter-gatherers living in isolation off the coast of Antarctica whose ancestors have been foraging in the jungle for Twinkies for thousands of years).

And as for consumer reception, I ask you: If it cost the same and tasted exactly the same, would you choose in-vitro hamburgers over real hamburgers?  Would you be grossed out by it?  But what if you took a minute to consider your moral obligation to human health, the environment, and animals–then could your conscience convince you to eat the in-vitro meat?  Comments are welcome.

Sources

Billings, Lee. “Why In-Vitro Meat is Good for You” Seed Magazine. 31 Aug. 2009. http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/why_in-vitro_meat_is_good_for_you/

Kneidel, Sally. “Livestock account for 51% of annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions” Veggie Revolution. 2 Nov. 2009. http://veggierevolution.blogspot.com/2009/11/livestock-account-for-51-of-annual.html

Goodland, Robert and Anhang, Jeff. “Livestock and Climate Change” Worldwatch Institute. Nov/Dec 2009. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294

Linking Acceptance of GM foods to Acceptance of InVitro meat November 13, 2009

Posted by cline6 in GM Food, In Vitro Meat.
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Over the past few years, genetically modified (GM) foods have received fair coverage in the media as they have been developed and produced. However, only recently have scientists and researchers begun to release information about the actual potential for manufacturing in an important branch of GM foods called “In-vitro Meat.”

According to researchers, In-vitro meat could have the potential to help global health in a variety of ways, including creating an “ideal hamburger” that can help prevent heart attacks instead of causing them, and by greatly reducing the effect of farming on global warming. However, there is a lot of concern that In-vitro meat will face the same initial criticism and problems that GM foods faced when they were originally released around the world (see A Global Perspective on GM Food in the Current Economic Climate). Some scientists believe that, if manufactured, a lack of understanding about the process through which In-Vitro meat is manufactured could lead to rejection of such technology.

Another concern for the release of In-Vitro meat products is the idea that, with the creation of labs and jobs for scientists to create In-vitro meat will come the exodus of the remaining farmers who rely on animal production as their livelihood. Some individuals believe that with the current state of the economy, there will be rejection of In-vitro meat simply because of the already harsh economic conditions faced by small farms across the United States.

On the other hand, this article, released by CNN Online recently, outlines some of the most beneficial parts of In-Vitro meat, and supports its production, especially in light of the fact that it will create thousands of new jobs for biotech workers to help manufacture in-vitro meat. It also points out that while some may reject the idea of test tube tacos, in-vitro meat is better for animals. In fact, after the development of initial in-vitro technology in 2005, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) started a nation-wide challenge in which they will give $1 million dollars to the first person who can create in-vitro chicken and sell it at a competitive price in ten states. PETA cites their support of in-vitro meat as being a way to help prevent the animal cruelty and abuse of farming. Such support from a well known group will likely help in-vitro meat continue to be accepted and developed, at least within the United States.

While it seems unlikely that in-vitro meat will pass through the production phases without criticism from society, one hopes that it will not face the same criticism and eventual rejection as GM foods. Although, as I have previously stated, there are economic and social concerns about the production of in-vitro meat, the benefits seem to be much more available and accessible to the masses than were the benefits of GM foods. As we move into an age where in-vitro meat will hopefully become the norm, scientists must continue to release their information about in-vitro meat production in clear, concise language, so as to continue to encourage the acceptance of such technology. With such measures being taken to encourage the creation and purchase of in-vitro meat, there is definitely hope that its transition into society will be much smoother than that of GM foods.

-Caroline King

Ford, Matt. “In-Vitro Meat: Would Lab Burgers be Better for us and the Planet?” CNN. 2 Nov. 2009. http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/08/07/eco.invitro.meat/i ndex.html

PETA. “PETA offers $1 million reward to first to make In-Vitro Chicken.” PETA. 1 Nov. 2009. http://www.peta.org/feat_in_vitro_contest.asp